East Anglia: Ambulance service pledges to recruit 350 extra front-line staff

Ambulance bosses investigate five serious incidents involving a patient's death

Ambulance bosses investigate five serious incidents involving a patient's death

THE head of the region’s under-performing ambulance trust has pledged to recruit more than 350 new front-line staff this year to deliver a better 999 service for patients.

The interim chief executive of the East of England Ambulance Service said the NHS trust was “letting down” patients and staff and has committed an extra £5m to improve emergency operations this year.

Under a turnaround plan, Andrew Morgan, who has been in the post since December, will make a pledge to hire 351 paramedics, technicians, and emergency care assistants (ECA) as well as adding an additional 25 double staffed ambulances to its fleet in 2013/14.

The report, which will be presented at the ambulance trust’s board meeting in Norwich on Thursday, comes as the organisation looks to address slow response times and raise staff morale following months of concerns from patients, staff, MPs and criticism from the healthcare regulator Care Quality Commission (CQC).

The plan follows a Department of Health-commissioned review of the NHS trust by Anthony Marsh, CEO of the West Midlands Ambulance Service, to help transform the fortunes of the under-fire organisation, which has seen the resignation of chairman Maria Ball and chief executive Hayden Newton over the last six months.

Mr Morgan, former chief executive of NHS Norfolk and Waveney, said there had been a “lack of clear and visible leadership” at the East of England Ambulance Service, and the pursuit of Foundation Trust status had resulted in a “lack of focus on the core business”.

He added the NHS trust has become too reliant on the use of Rapid Response Vehicles (RRV), particularly in rural areas and the use of private ambulances to attend patients.

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Key points of the turnaround plan include:

• The recruitment of 82 specialist paramedics, 149 paramedics, 24 technicians, and 96 ECAs in 2013/14.

• An extra 25 24/7 double staffed ambulances to add to the 170 ambulances already deployed.

• Seek to relocate the trust’s headquarters from a business park near Cambridge closer to front-line services.

• Commission 90 university places a year from January 2014 for paramedics.

• Reduce support functions by £2m in 2013/14.

• Reduce reliance on private ambulances and reduce costs by at least £500,000 a month.

Mr Morgan said: “We need to improve the service we give to patients and better support our dedicated and committed staff. In addition to recruiting more people and putting more vehicles on the road earlier this year, we have developed short and medium term actions and, coupled with our organisational development strategy to better empower staff, these will help to start to transform the service.”

He added: “Transforming the organisation will take time but we have the staff and the focus to turn things around together.”